3 gospel stories made into Atlas Shrugged

In the Catholic America magazine, James Martin, S.J. offers the following retelling of familiar gospel stories using laissez-faire capitalist values like those of  libertarian hero Ayn Rand’s sacred text Atlas Shrugged. I know some of you will roll your eyes, but consider these questions. Would you heal a man whose friends had just torn the roof off your house? If you were the main speaker at a rally where the people in attendance hadn’t brought food, would you personally take responsibility for feeding every single one of them? If you met a rich young man who followed the Bible perfectly, would you tell him to give all his money away to the poor? These three gospel stories as they really happened are incomprehensible to the value system that has sprouted in America over the past 30 years. Never in our history has there been more contempt for the concept of the common good than there is today. So allow yourselves to be challenged by the satirical version of these stories below.

The Lazy Paralytic

1. When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at his home. 2. So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. 3. Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.  4. And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.

5. When Jesus saw this he grew angry, “Why did you wreck my roof?  Do you have any idea how much that cost to install?  Do you know how many tables and chairs I had to make in my carpentry shop to pay for that roof?  The reeds alone cost five talents.  I had them carted in from Bethany.”  6. The disciples had never seen Jesus so angry about his possessions.  He continued, “This house is my life.  And the roof is the best part.”  The disciples fell silent.

7. “It’s bad enough that you trash my private property, now you want me to heal you?” said Jesus, “And did you not see the stone walls around this house?”  “Yes,” said the man’s friends.  “Are these not the stone walls common to the towns and villages of Galilee?”  8. “No,” Jesus answered.  “This is a gated community.  How did you get in?”  The man’s friends grew silent.  9. Then Jesus turned and said to the paralytic, “Besides, can’t you take care of your own health problems?  I’m sure that your family can care for you, or maybe the synagogue can help out.” 10. “No, Lord,” answered the man’s friends.  “There is no one.  His injuries are too severe.  To whom else can we go?”  11. “Well, not me,” said Jesus.  “What would happen if I provided access to free health care for everyone?  That would mean that people would not only get lazy and entitled, but they would take advantage of the system.

12. Besides, look at me: I’m healthy. And you know why?  Because I worked hard for my money, and took care of myself.”  The paralyzed man then grew sad and he addressed Jesus.  “But I did work, Lord,” said the paralytic.  “Until an accident rendered me paralyzed.”  “Yes,” said the man’s friends. “He worked very hard.”  13. “Well,” said Jesus, “That’s just part of life, isn’t it?”  “Then what am I to do, Lord?” said the paralytic.  “I don’t know.  Why don’t you sell your mat?”  14. All in the crowd then grew sad.  “Actually, you know what you can do?” said Jesus. “You can reimburse me for my roof.  Or I’ll sue you.” And all were amazed.  15. “We have never seen anything like this,” said the crowd.

The Very Poorly Prepared Crowd

1. The day was drawing to a close, and the twelve apostles came to Jesus and said, “Send the crowd away, so that they may go into the surrounding villages and countryside, to lodge and get provisions; for we are here in a deserted place.” 2 But Jesus said to them, “Why not give them something to eat?” They said, “We have no more than five loaves and two fish—unless we are to go and buy food for all these people.”  3 For there were about five thousand men.

And Jesus said to his disciples, “You know what?  You’re right.  Don’t waste your time and shekels.  It would be positively immoral for you to spend any of your hard-earned money for these people.  They knew full well that they were coming to a deserted place, and should have relied on themselves and brought more food.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s every five thousand men for themselves.”  4. The disciples were astonished by this teaching.  “But Lord,” said Thomas.  “The crowd will surely go hungry.”  Jesus was amazed at his hard-headedness.  “That’s not my problem, Thomas.  Better that their stomachs are empty than they become overly dependent on someone in authority to provide loaves and fishes for them on a regular basis.  Where will it end?  Will I have to feed them everyday?”

“No, Lord,” said Thomas, “Just today.  When they are without food.  After they have eaten their fill, they will be healthy, and so better able to listen to your word and learn from you.”  Jesus was grieved at Thomas’s answer.  Jesus answered, “It is written: There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”  So taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and took one loaf and one fish for himself, and gave the rest to the twelve, based on their previously agreed-upon contractual per diem.  But he distributed none to the crowd, because they needed to be taught a lesson.  So Jesus ate and he was satisfied.  The disciples somewhat less so.  “Delicious,” said Jesus.  What was left over was gathered up and saved for Jesus, should he grow hungry in a few hours.  The very poorly prepared crowd soon dispersed.

The Rich and Therefore Blessed Young Man

1. As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to him and knelt before him, and asked, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  2. And Jesus said to him, “What have you done so far?” 3. And he said to Him, “Well I was born into a wealthy family, got into a good school in Galilee because my parents donated a few thousand talents for a building with a nice reed roof, and now I have a high-paying job in the Roman treasury managing risk.”

4. Looking at him, Jesus felt an admiration for him, and said to him, “Blessed are you!  For you are not far from being independently wealthy.” And the man was happy.  Then Jesus said, “But there is one thing you lack: A bigger house in a gated community in Tiberias. Buy that and you will have a treasure indeed.  And make sure you get a stone countertop for the kitchen.  Those are really nice.”  The disciples were amazed.  5. Peter asked him, “Lord, shouldn’t he sell all his possessions and give it to the poor?” Jesus grew angry.  “Get behind me, Satan!  He has earned it!”  Peter protested: “Lord,” he said, “Did this man not have an unjust advantage?  What about those who are not born into wealthy families, or who do not have the benefit of a good education, or who, despite all their toil, live in the poorer areas of Galilee, like Nazareth, your own home town?”

6. “Well,” said Jesus, “first of all, that’s why I left Nazareth.  There were too many poor people always asking me for charity.  They were as numerous as the stars in the sky, and they annoyed me.  Second, once people start spending again, like this rich young man, the Galilean economy will inevitably rebound, and eventually some of it will trickle down to the poor.  Blessed are the patient!  But giving the money away, especially if he can’t write it off, is a big fat waste.”  The disciples’ amazement knew no bounds.  “But Lord,” they said, “what about the passages in both the Law and the Prophets that tell us to care for widows and orphans, for the poor, for the sick, for the refugee?  What about the many passages in the Scriptures about justice?” 7. “Those are just metaphors,” said Jesus.  “Don’t take everything so literally.”

  • d

    Are we rewritng scripture today?
    It is also true Jesus did not heal all the sick.
    Why not?

    Jesus had no home.
    He returned to his home town.
    You have missed the whole point of every story you quote.

    Jesus did what he did to prove who he was.
    He said so.

    8 Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts?
    9 Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’?

    10 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man[a] has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said,
    11 “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
    Did you notice the exclamation mark at the end of the last statement Jesus made? “go home!”
    What do you think that denotes?
    Mark 2

    We are commanded to care for those in need.
    The sick, the elderly, the handicaped, the children and those unable to help themselves.
    Not create a nation of dependents.
    Not make a nation broke with debt.
    We are not commanded to uphold lawlessness and laziness.
    We are not to make a people of entitlement seekers.

    The exclamation mark, or exclamation point, is a punctuation mark usually used after an interjection or exclamation to indicate strong feelings or high volume.

    • Morgan Guyton

      You’re getting a lot of mileage out of that exclamation point, but Greek didn’t have punctuation. There’s no basis in the original text to extrapolate the tone in what Jesus is saying. You want him to be scolding the paralytic. He didn’t just heal to “show who he was.” He healed him because he “saw their faith” and had compassion on them.

      It doesn’t really matter whether the home in Capernaum was owned by Jesus or Simon Peter’s mother-in-law (?). If Jesus were a 21st century libertarian, he would have been more worried about the destruction of the roof than the condition of the paralytic.

      Regarding your ideological commentary, would you say that head-start programs for preschoolers in poor neighborhoods are “upholding lawlessness and laziness”? Is giving affordable medical care to people who are working full-time but don’t have medical benefits as part of their compensation is “creating a nation of dependents”? You never talk about anything concrete. You live entirely in the world of your abstract ideology. So I can’t take you seriously.

      • d

        If the punctuation mark was not there (and it is) the feel is the same.
        ” Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts?”

        Original text was also not done in paragraphs.
        The text are structured as they are for contemporary and present day reading and understanding.

        Everything Jesus said and everything written is important becasue…..somewhere it is refererenced, somewhere in scripture is made important.
        When it is written Christ’s hand was placed somewhere, that is important.

        There are no wasted words in scripture.
        The text are designed to be studied.

        Your final comments are not true and like your theology the comments are speculation based on no known facts.
        What I would question about head start programs are where are the parents?
        In my original comment you will notice children are included as those it is our responsibility to take care of when the parents will not.

        Do you think there are far to many women having children out of wedlock?
        Do you think the children of absent fathers suffer?
        Do you think the government can fill the shoes of the parent?
        Do you know disability by abusing drugs is now covered by social security?
        Do you know shelters for the homeless are rarely used by those that they are built for except in inclement weather?
        Do you know that many homeless collect social security and social benefit that support their drug use?
        Do you know many a pan handler make a pretty good living off the good hearted people that hand them their hard earned money?
        Do you understand that when you hand that homless drug user a sandwich that allows them to use their own resourses to pay for their drugs and alcohol?

        I could go on and on.
        All the things above are not what the system was designed to do and we are going broke.
        Soon there will be nothing left for the children. the truely poor, handicapped and elderly because of the abuse.
        We want to help those that can not help themselves not generate a culture of “you owe me” thinkers.

        • Morgan Guyton

          You’re trafficking in stereotypes so I can’t really engage them. I work directly in ministry with poor people. There is an impossible to untangle mix of legitimately oppressive social forces and poor personal choices at play. It’s not all one or the other. At first, I got taken advantage of because I was naive. I remember once paying somebody’s rent for her because she was desperate and then she had freshly manicured nails the next time I saw her. To her, the nails were important, because they could help her find a man to take care of her. But it wasn’t good for me to enable her so I made a different decision the next time she asked for help.

          I don’t assume that every poor person acts the same way as you seem to have an easy time doing. I just try to make wise stewardship choices in how I help people. I want the poor people I know personally to get what they need to survive because I love them. There are some things like public preschool education, supplementary food programs, etc. that really do go beyond the resources of what churches and private individuals can provide. That reality may not conform to your ideological framework, but that doesn’t make it any less real.

          How I think about these issues is based on what I have experienced directly in ministry. When people come to our church for help, the first thing I ask them is if they have a case worker with the county. If they don’t, I don’t have any basis for knowing whether or not they’re con artists. When you talk in the abstract about cutting government programs, you’re really talking about cutting those case workers who need to exist so that people with legitimate disabilities, mental illnesses, etc, can get what they need to be productive and people who have turned into scam artists because of addictions or other issues can be shown the tough love that they need to get the help that they need.

          Even the scammers need help. If you take the social service agency out of the picture, what you will have are people without training getting taken advantage of. That’s the irony of your superficial level of thinking. If there is corruption occurring now, what makes you think it will be better when we have cut away all the social workers who are trained to make intelligent judgments about who needs what, whether it’s a kick in the pants or an EBT card for groceries so their kids won’t starve.

          The underlying question is where is your heart. Do you love the widows and orphans that God aches for the most? Or are you more interested in coming up with abstract stereotypes about them so that you feel okay not caring? Do you put in a quota of hours with token mission projects so that you can whip that out when people challenge you about your level of compassion? I don’t know your story. But based on the sweeping generalizations you’re making, it doesn’t seem like this is anything you have personal exposure to. Maybe I’m wrong. God bless.

  • d

    You should read Ezekiel 18
    The Justice of a Righteous God
    and Proverbs 6 to get a better balance on what a righteous God requires.

    The account in Mark and the roof, as I read it, shows a little irritation in the word Christ speaks.

    • Morgan Guyton

      I’m not sure why you bring up Ezekiel 18 and Proverbs 6 as a “counter-point.”

  • Deborah S

    It never ceases to amaze me how people can miss the point entirely then turn and twist to pick apart a message or lesson to their fit and/or support their self consumed or self absorbed, [it’s all about ‘me’- {individual} ~ not at all about ‘us’ {the world as a whole} outlook and manner of living.
    Get past self long enough to garner the lesson to be had here…Jesus must moan in anguish over the values held so dear to society and even among persons of faith that are so far, far removed from what he lived and taught.

    A much needed message that will be, unfortunately, cast aside due to pride, arrogance, greed and selfishness.

    • d

      Why Jesus did what He did is clearly written:
      “So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins”

      Did Christ show mercy? Yes.
      I agree with your comment on pride, arrogance, and selfishness.
      You notice the man Jesus healed is completely helpless.
      There is a balance in scripture.
      Scripture also reveals there is charity that leads to a spoiled individual.
      Loving your neighbor sometimes may require withholding of benefits.
      There is accountabilty and the misuse of resourses also found in scripture.

      Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.
      1 Corinthians 4:2

      But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 1 Timothy5:8

      “If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work but busybodies. Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their own work quietly and to earn their own living.”
      Thessalonians 3:10-12:

      • Morgan Guyton

        You’re misapplying Thessalonians and you haven’t addressed my dismantling of your surface level assumptions about “government spending.” Paul is writing to a community about how to treat people in that community. You’re talking about national policies in which you’re presuming an analogy with what Paul says that isn’t really there. Nobody is writing blank checks. I have worked with government social workers who engaged the homeless. It’s all about tough love and empowerment. You’re talking about abstract stereotypes that have no correspondence to concrete reality.

      • d

        Guyton
        I believe you brought “headstart” into the conversation.
        That is a government backed program.
        Paul was addresing freeloaders in the church and refering back to OT principle.
        The principle associated with work is not new. It is very old.

        Gov assistance can not work wotk with Faith Based charities as can be seen today.
        The unraveling of that idea is in the recent news.
        The gov. attaches strings the church, depending on the denomination, must and will reject.

  • Jeremy Scott

    Thanks for this, it really sums up the argument between the two philosophies very well.

    • Jeremy Scott

      A thought: why can’t we use the government to help reach those our churches can’t? If the problem is mismanagement, why not vote people into government that would help eliminate it, and not the programs themselves?

      • Morgan Guyton

        That’s what I’m saying

      • Jeremy Scott

        I was summing up your point and asking the other commentators this at the same time. I just replied to my own post instead of theirs. My bad. Lol

        • Morgan Guyton

          Good deal. Makes sense.

  • Pingback: “Jesus Taught Generosity and Charity, Not Government Assistance”

  • http://sacredconscience.wordpress.com Steve Allred

    Love the satirical piece above. Thanks for posting – it drives home some great lessons.

  • http://jrdonohue.com John Donohue

    Yes! That is EXACTLY the way Ayn Rand would have written the scenes.

    All bets are off per your “nicer” persona on the other Ayn Rand thread. You are obviously out for blood.

  • reyjacobs

    But would anyone really heal someone who just tore up their roof? I mean, let’s get real. This is why not too many people (even Christians) really believe the story is literal history. The rewrite is more believable except for the liberal-biased “and everyone was shocked” stuff, because honestly, if the guy tore up Jesus’ roof and Jesus tossed him saying he wouldn’t heal him and you better reimburse me for the roof or I’ll sue, its unlikely many people would have been amazed or shocked. Instead, they would have said “Well done Jesus. Teach that jerk a bit about how to behave as a human being. Sure he’s in pain and would love to be healed. But if he wants to be healed he ought to have some respect for people’s property. He’s not the only man on earth. AND AFTER ALL, Jesus, there is a long line of people waiting to be healed!!!! Why he tore up the roof to cut in line? Yes he did!!!! How dare him!!! Trying cut in front of all these other people who desperately need healing.” And some little old lady who was next in line would say “Amen, Peter! You preach it brother! How dare that jerk cut in front of me! I’ve been waiting in line for hours! How dare him have his gang of miscreants climb the roof and help him cut in front of me!” And some old blind man behind her “Here here!” and on down the line all the way back through the whole line as the story of what transpired got back through the line, every sick person in line would have been DISGUSTED with that man’s actions in CUTTING IN LINE by going through the roof. It makes us wonder, then, why in the present form of the story where Jesus heals the man, we don’t get a reaction from all the people he cut in front of!!!!!!! The story tells us that the place was so full and the line was so long and that’s why he did it, so why don’t we get to hear the reaction from the other peons who were cheated by this man? Because the story was biased by a liberal editor? Who knows.

    • Morgan Guyton

      The thing that’s missing from your account is any semblance of grace which is the precursor to the possibly of our being honest about our inadequacies.

      • reyjacobs

        We all want to be healed, saved, whatever, but its wrong to step on people to get there. Its like Michael J Fox. I used to like the guy. Then he got Parkinsons, and that’s bad and I feel for him. But then he allowed the Democrats to use him as a shill for abortionism. That put this pathetic shaky man in commercials in favor of killing more babies so we can harvest their stem cells and hopefully one day heal this man. I’d love for him to be healed. But isn’t it immoral for him to basically say “I want to be healed so bad, that I’m ok with killing babies to get there”? I see the guy breaking up the roof and cutting in line as along the same lines but on a smaller scale. I would wager (if I were a betting man) that the reason Jesus healed him is because it was not his idea to break up the roof. It was the idea of the guys carrying him there. He probably protested. I can’t imagine Jesus healing a totally selfish jerk. So I think the missing bit of the story is the explanation “Jesus healed him despite him breaking the roof because his friends did that against his wishes, not he himself.” In any case, I would not agree with anyone using this story as an excuse to treat themselves as more important than everyone else.

        • Morgan Guyton

          Are abortions really the only source of stem cells? I think you’re playing a little bit loose with the facts here.

          • reyjacobs

            The commercials were for infant stem cells. Yes, of course, there are also adult stem cells. But that’s not what it was about. This was back when Bush was prez and he had decided that only research on adult stem cells and existing infant stem cell lines could get federal money, but that no federal money could be used to create new infant stem cell lines. And the libs were all up in the air over it and pretending that he had banned stem cell research altogether.

  • reyjacobs

    As to the story of the rich young ruler, in a conservative rewrite, Jesus would not praise him for being rich. Rather that bit about “go, sell everything you have and give the money to the poor” would be replaced by “go, invest a bit of your wealth in a small business, employ the poor, and raise them from poverty to middle class.” Jesus might even say “give a poor man a fish, and he’ll trade it in for booze; but give him a job, and maybe he’ll grow some brains.”

    • Morgan Guyton

      My grandpa made a ton of money in Texas oil and then “invested” it philanthropically in a lot of people including myself. He wasn’t looking to make a profit and try to squeeze people into sweatshop wages in order to maximize his margin. He simply decided to be generous because he felt that God had been generous to him. He followed Jesus’ teachings in this parable in a responsible way. Dumping all your money out on the sidewalk would be bad stewardship of God’s wealth.

      In a strict secular meritocracy like Ayn Rand promoted, generosity is immoral because it rewards “laziness” (or bad luck or underprivileged circumstances). I can absolutely respect someone who wants to help people privately instead of making the government do it for them. Where my worldview differs from yours (perhaps) is that I view everything I have used to “earn” anything as a gift from God and a reason to be generous with others. The reason the government is relevant at all in our social safety nets is because private philanthropy has not yet filled the gaps that need to be filled.

      • reyjacobs

        Well, I’ve never read Atlas Shrugged. I read half of one of her other books, “For the New Intellectual,” (the half I read was her explanation of her ‘philosophy’ and the half I didn’t was excerpts from her novels) and I didn’t agree with everything she said. Personally, I think rather than providing a safety net in which crack heads and welfare queens get paid for nothing, the government ought to limit the number of hours that you can be made to work, and find a way to raise wages for everyone but mandate that cost of living doesn’t go up. I’m tired of being used like a slave as much as everyone else. And strict so-called “meritocracy” simply leads to cronyism. I’m not against generosity. I like the story of your grandpa. That’s how businesses should operate. But when it comes to generosity and charity I disagree with the method employed by the government and by probably most charities too. I think its irresponsible to not follow the teachings of Jesus ben Sira on this point. This is one place where the rejection of the Apocrypha has been harmful to Protestantism and through it to society at large. This is another reason why so much moral laxity abounds.

        Sirach 12:1-7 (KJV) “When thou wilt do good know to whom thou doest it; so shalt thou be thanked for thy benefits. Do good to the godly man, and thou shalt find a recompence; and if not from him, yet from the most High. There can no good come to him that is always occupied in evil, nor to him that giveth no alms. Give to the godly man, and help not a sinner. Do well unto him that is lowly, but give not to the ungodly: hold back thy bread, and give it not unto him, lest he overmaster thee thereby: for else thou shalt receive twice as much evil for all the good thou shalt have done unto him. For the most High hateth sinners, and will repay vengeance unto the ungodly, and keepeth them against the mighty day of their punishment. Give unto the good, and help not the sinner.”

        In other words, feeding people is all well and good. But only feed the good people and not the vagabonds, the drug addicts and drunks and the sex addicts. Feed the bad people and you destroy society. Feed the good, you save it. Amen.

        • Morgan Guyton

          I guess this is one of the reasons that Sirach didn’t make the canon. I’ve been a vagabond and a drug addict before but God showed me mercy through a lot of people who helped me and now I’m a responsible person. So I guess you’ve never gotten help from anybody or done anything stupid in your life. Mister, you’re a better man than I.

          • reyjacobs

            I’m not talking about rehab here obviously, but more like welfare. Rehab is different because its whole aim to to reform the person. But if you’re just handing food to vagabonds, that will not help society. And Sirach did make the canon. It made the Alexandrian Jewish canon in the 1st century or before (and as a result is still used by Ethiopian Jews) and it passed into the Christian canon of the first few centuries of the church through the LXX and remained there until it began to be questioned by one man, Jerome, who was not a very nice guy. He was really racist. But he went to Palestine to learn Hebrew from the Palestinian Jews and he became biased against the Alexandrian Jewish canon as a result. From him and him alone came the Protestant rejection of the Apocrypha. Interestingly enough, Martin Luther who didn’t believe that Esther, Hebrews, or James ought to be in the canon, did believe Sirach and 1st Macabees should be.